When an empty train pulls in to Flinders Street Station, the first thing people look for is a place to sit down for their journey home. If they are lucky enough, they will score a seat before there is no longer any sitting space available. As much as prolonged sitting isn’t great for our health, most of us would prefer to sit than to stand. This is not just on the train ride home; we prefer to sit to eat lunch, socialise, soak up the sun, or read a book.
“People tend to sit where there are places to sit.” – William H. Whyte
Sittable space is something that is easily overlooked in urban planning. It is one of the most important traits of great urban spaces according to William H. Whyte, a seminal figure in urban design thinking. Most of Whyte’s findings come from observing pedestrians going about their daily activities in the streets of New York City. In his film entitled “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”, Whyte describes what he means by sittable space and why it is so crucial. You can watch the film here.